Experimental Grad Seminar on Conspiracy/Theory
In 2016-17, the Conspiracy/Theory Project included a fall 2016 graduate seminar developed by Joe Masco (3CT) and with Joseph Dumit at University of California-Davis. The class explored the development of conspiracy as a term, the practices of critical theory and paranoid reading styles, and addressed shifts in the mass mediation of politics across finance, energy, war, and the environment. Classes were taught simultaneously in Wilder House at the University of Chicago and University of California-Davis, with the classes interacting virtually both online and in the classroom.
This past year, Shannon Lee Dawdy introduced the Future Café, an experimental forum that encouraged undergraduates to collectively imagine utopian possibilities and multi-generational futures as a part of the Materializing the Future project. This is one of 3CT’s innovative experiments in the different forms that critical engagement can take. Designed as something between CAS’s workshops and 3CT’s book salons, students selected topics and led conversations about climate change, post-capitalism, transportation, urbanism, and the future of intimacy. No “homework” was required in recognition that creative intellectualism sometimes needs to be unmoored from the evaluative criteria of the classroom. For the same reason, faculty were allowed to facilitate, but not direct, the conversation. Students from multiple departments and divisions attended six cafés over the year. Interest in the series was strong, helping to build a new undergraduate audience for other 3CT events. Dozens of graduate students also expressed interest in the series, suggesting that 3CT has hit upon a desire for new forms of engagement.
In spring 2017, William Mazzarella and Kaushik Sunder-Rajan co-convened a major undergraduate teaching initiative under the 3CT banner: the college course Trump 101. Combining a weekly series of stand-alone lectures with the continuity of discussion sections led by graduate students, the course mobilized the pedagogical inputs of several members of 3CT (including Lauren Berlant, Moishe Postone, Lisa Wedeen and Joe Masco) and put them into conversation with colleagues from elsewhere on campus. As a foreshadowing of the kinds of teaching initiatives that 3CT is planning to launch in the form of a Civ sequence, the course embodied signature 3CT values: critical interdisciplinary in the service of theorizing the present.